At last month's 27th Lone Pine Film Festival we enjoyed two movie location tours led by Don Kelsen.
We previously enjoyed tours led by Don in 2014 and 2015; as I wrote about a few weeks ago, he has tremendous knowledge of the Alabama Hills and does extensive research matching movie scenes to their Lone Pine locations.
The first tour, early Friday, was for the film DESERT PURSUIT (1952), starring Wayne Morris and Virginia Grey. Saturday morning's tour was for the Hopalong Cassidy film MYSTERY MAN (1944), starring William Boyd as Hoppy.
Each tour was preceded by a 7:30 a.m. screening of the movie in the high school auditorium. Including RAWHIDE (1951) on Sunday, which I wrote about briefly in my festival intro post, I made it to the early screening three days in a row!
Of course, it's easier to get up early when you know you'll have a view from your hotel room door like the one above!
DESERT PURSUIT, which is available from the Warner Archive, is by no means a great Western, but I've seen it twice in 2016 and I must say I quite enjoy it, not least because of the extensive Lone Pine locations.
There's a scene late in DESERT PURSUIT where Morris and Grey stumble into an Indian camp where the Indians are celebrating Christmas. An altar was built attached to the above rock.
At the foot of the rock Don happened to notice a very rusted nail, held below with the "altar" rock in the background. Given the fact it was found at that particular rock, out of many thousands, it seems quite likely it was part of the altar and has been rusting in the desert ever since the set was torn down.
This page of our screen shots booklet for DESERT PURSUIT shows scenes from the Christmas sequence, with the nail lying on top.
Thanks to the booklet Don prepared, it was easy to match up scenes with what was in front of us:
The tours provide a lot of insight into the budget moviemaking process. In the case of DESERT PURSUIT, scenes which take place miles apart were actually shot in a very compact area. On the other hand, in the case of MYSTERY MAN, a scene which ostensibly takes place in a single location was put together from shots filmed hundreds of miles apart! More on that below.
Once again we matched up locations for the movie we'd just seen with shots in our booklet:
Hoppy expert John Gilliland, who extensively researched his authentic late '30s version of the Hopalong Cassidy costume, kindly posed for us in a few of the same places where William Boyd had filmed the movie over seven decades before.
Our MYSTERY MAN tour didn't end in Lone Pine! The final shootout, for unknown reasons, was a mixture of scenes filmed in Lone Pine with scenes shot at Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth, where countless other movies were filmed. Last weekend several of us who had been on the Lone Pine tour met up with Don at Iverson. Accompanying us on the tour was Dennis Liff of the Iverson Movie Ranch blog.
Dennis has written an extensive blog post about the MYSTERY MAN locations. His post includes a YouTube clip of the shootout and is highly recommended for anyone interested in the locations.
Below are just a couple of the photos I took as we hiked the MYSTERY MAN locations at Iverson.
While we were there we also enjoyed looking at locations from a few other films, including William Boyd's MEN OF AMERICA (1932), which is on DVD from the Warner Archive. Now that I've seen that movie's locations, I hope to review the film here in the not-too-distant future.
We also saw locations for MONTANA MOON (1930), STAGECOACH (1939), TENNESSEE'S PARTNER (1955), and OLD YELLER (1957). Be sure to visit the Iverson Ranch blog for photo posts on these locations; there's an index along the right margin of the site.
The stagecoach passes by here early in John Ford's classic:
Below on the left is Lone Ranger Rock, famously seen in the opening credits of the LONE RANGER TV series:
Our thanks to Don and Dennis for all their research and some great tours!